Bemusement of a neophilic Discordian

Ach, you know how it is: someone posts something about a technical problem, you post a solution and follow it up with an explanation of exactly what the problem is, they take umbrage and post a blind swipe on Twitter, said swipe vanishes 18 hours later.

I’ll take that as an apology, then. Apology accepted. Hurrah!

Anyway. This morning I had to pop over to sort out my grandmother’s telly, again. She has this tendency to press the wrong button on the remote control and balls things up one way or another, which means a drive over Keynsham to spend a couple of minutes undoing things and making it work again. This time it wasn’t her doing; instead the batteries in the remote for the cable box were nearly flat and making the remote behave oddly. Put in three new AAAs and everything was fine again, then for an encore rang Virgin Media and set up a new direct debit for her after they’d lost the old one when the account was transferred to her name after Pete died. Amazingly I got straight through to a human being without the usual ten-minute wait and had it sorted inside a couple of minutes. Now we just have to wait and see how they manage to cock it up this time.

Going back to the remote control, though. She’s 87 years old. The TV has a remote control, the cable box has a remote control, and they both have way more buttons than she can get her head around. I’ve looked for elderly-friendly programmable remotes and there’s literally nothing of any use; best I can find is some jumbo remote that you have to put codes in for different models of TV and so on. It might work if it has the right code, but it doesn’t address the usability issue.

All she needs is an on/off button for the TV, a volume control for the TV, and buttons to change the channel on the cable box. That’s it. In the past I’ve looked for elderly-friendly mobile phones and found a great one with just five buttons that you programme with a set of useful phone numbers, one per big button. Someone needs to do the same with remote controls.

It’s all extra-complicated these days because no-one changes the channel on the TV any more; you have an extra box piping a cable or satellite or Freeview feed into the TV, and you change the channel on that. Working on that assumption, what we need is a remote that’ll mimic the useful bits of two separate remotes in one straightforward package that a recently-widowed 87-year-old can use.

You’d either have a big set of pre-programmed codes so you could tell it that you want the channel-changing stuff from this remote, and the TV-working stuff from that remote, or failing that you’d just have to site down with it and the remotes you want it to mimic and teach the damn thing. Assuming that wouldn’t make it idiotically expensive.

It’d have nice big buttons with a fair bit of travel and a nice click on them, clearly marked. And it’d sell to anyone who’s regularly had to sort out an elderly relative’s TV because they’ve been pressing buttons they don’t understand.

Any engineers about who could put one together? We’d fucking clean up.


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